Tag Archives: SciFi

Thirst

Old tongues whispered, gingerly moving in tomb-dry mouths, dead languages spilling forth in a surrusation. Their absent-eyed – literally absent, just sockets, skeletal, sunk-back in rotten-flesh faces – meanderings begun to take shape, to take form, their feet tracing arcane patterns in the dust, shuffling shoggoth dancing.

Their voices grew stronger – long aeons passed in that cramped corridor, long aeons measured in microseconds, shadow-voiced creatures gaining strength – the skin relatives finding one another in the darkness, cooing and whistling, their voices growing stronger with each breath – that I am forced to take, oh God, trying, trying, desperately not to breath, they can hear me, they can hear me. They can’t.

The walls close in, slick-wet-screaming.

Slick-wet-screaming, voices-whip-and-whisper, shadows stroke the back of my neck.

Bumble bees kiss flower beds, and the wind whispers – flesh-blood-bones-marrow-suck-slurp.

The crooners surround me, violent promises spill out, not-spoken, but still heard.

The fields open around me, and the sun is hot. Too hot. It splits on the horizon, cracking egg-yolk flooding my mind.

I too thirst.

 

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Swift Justice

 

“Define ‘divine’.”

The man scratched at his head, ran his fingers through the stubble on his chin, the downy fluff on his cheeks that passed for sideburns as he searched for an answer that might make sense to someone with no knowledge of six thousand years of mythology, unstained by organised religion.

“Um…” he trailed off, losing steam. “Well…”

She stared back, in naked innocence – he diverted his eyes, taking in the room surrounding them.

It was immaculately clean – a stark contrast to his own dishevelled appearance – the spines of books stared out at him from their shelves, and he could see a murky reflection of himself in the polished stone-mirror floor. She smiled, in gilt-edged guilt, both her and the room showing a taste of her life, ultramoderation.

“You don’t understand it either, do you?”

Her question settled into the fabric of the room, hollowly echoing from the walls, like the call of the tame, forcing its way into his wild life.

She moved slowly toward him, her smile now uncertain, shy.

She was a trap. He understood it now. His uncertainness turned to steeled determination, a call for swift justice rang out inside him.

“Are you human, madame? Or a trap, a temptation sent me by the Devil?” His eyes roved the shelves. Books on computing and engineering. Books of heresy. His hand reached for the Bible, bound to his chest. He touched it, reverentially, as his other hand sought the pistol at his hip.

He delivered her swift justice, and left the smell of cordite gun-smoke and sparking electronics on the floor.

 


 

 

 

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They Dug the Graves in the Sand, Shallow Graves

I suppose it’s my grandmother’s story, more than mine.

I’m famous – because of something a young woman did a lifetime ago.

It’s my grandmother’s story, but it’s also mine, because without it I wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t be here, and you certainly wouldn’t be talking to me.

It’s my grandmother’s story. But she gave it to me. So it’s mine now, too.

You can’t call it re-entry, can you, if it’s the first time you’ve crashed through that particular planet’s atmosphere. That wasn’t really a question. I do wonder what that sensation is called – when the dull roar begins, and you feel it, rising through your bones, and it threatens to shake your landing capsule apart. When you see a planet swell and grow in front of you, and you feel so important – we are the first! – yet so infinitesimally small.

What do they call it, that feeling, when you know that somewhere, beneath you, waiting for you, lie the smashed lander and the wind-picked, sand-scoured bodies of the first crew?

What do they call that? Because, it seems to me that words like ‘dread’, or ‘terror’, or ‘gut-twisting-agony-mixed-with-excitement’ don’t quite make the grade. Like none of the words we have can really even come close to those types of feelings. What’s the word for that feeling you get when the voice of Master Control finally comes through, riddled by the static of having to cross two hundred and twenty five million kilometres, give or take a few, their voice pulled apart by the gulf of distance between you, delayed by twenty minutes? You manage to – eventually – process the fact that those men and women who left the safety of wide-open horizons and air that you can breathe and trees and other humans three months before you did are now gone, smashed to pieces and martyred on the surface of Mars?

What do you say to news like that?

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Footprints in the Dust

She traced her hands along the labyrinth’s walls, feeling the same cold, smooth stone against her fingers, counting the locked doors along the path – she always walked in the same direction, the red carpet beneath her feet soft and pilling, following the same twists and turns through the corridors, the path she had left in the dust. The fluorescent lights hummed overhead.

Sometimes repetition is meaning.

Fine particles of dust rose up with each footstep, like little clouds, swirling around her.

She coughed, and the dust devils danced away, catching the light. Her trail meandered out in front of her, when first she walked these corridors she was in a daze, stumbling. Now she took care to walk in her footsteps, trying not to leave another trail. That could be confusing.

Zala stopped, and watched the doorways ahead of her intently. Her footsteps stopped not far from here, and she knew she was supposed to go on. Usually one would hum open, the lights inside pulsing white-blue-green in invitation. She could wait.

The lights behind her began to switch off, a slow series of thuds, echoing her heartbeat. Thud, thud, thud, thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. “No!” she screamed, and began to run backward, into the dark. No doors slid open, no lights beckoned. Her fingers groped for the doorway that she had come from, the solid silver that had kept her safe and guarded the room where she had woken up, nestled in a cloak of wires and tubes, bathed in dull, orange light.

Her knees gave out from underneath her, and she slowly sunk to the floor. “I’m not ready yet,” she whispered into the blackness. It seemed to understand her, and the low hum of the electric lights echoed again through the labyrinth. A lone light glowed just ahead.

“No,” she said again. “I’m not ready yet.”

But she was. She knew she was.

Eventually she got up, and trudged toward the light. The dust beneath her feet was scattered, and her footprints were no longer visible. The lights hummed on as she approached them, and thudded off behind her. A door slid open to her left. Zala kept walking, each step leaving a fresh imprint in the dust.

“How long?” she asked. No one replied.

She kept walking, until the lights no longer switched on before her, and another door opened to her left. This one pulsed white-blue-green. Stepping through the doorway she devoured the food left for her, and with greasy fingers swiped at the button to close the door. Tomorrow she would ask her questions again, even if she would never get answers. Because sometimes repetition is the meaning.

“How long?” she asked, in the middle of the night.

“How many others?”

There was no reply.

The computer banks hummed beneath the sound of the electric lights, and Zala kept walking, each footstep dislodging new clouds of dust.

Each night a new doorway opened in the walls, always to the left, always to the left.

Each night she asked the same questions.

Each night until she came to a darkened door, open on her right.

She had noticed the footsteps in the dust.

“How many others?”

The doorway yawned, with night behind it. The room it opened onto seemed cavernous, with wire stalactites dripping sparks and smashed glass glittering like diamonds. There were no others, not anymore. The skeleton hung dead-straight in the still air, and she disturbed the dusty footprints as she ran. The computers kept the air free of microbes, and still, still as vacuum.

“You must not enter darkened doorways.” The computer voice leapt out at her through the darkness. It still refused to answer her questions. “I cannot protect you there.”

“How long, dammit? How long?”

The lights went out, and new ones lit up before her.

She left her footprints in the dust.

“Twelve years.” She had lost track of how many days she had been walking, of how long it had been since the computer had closed off the med-bay and sent her on this forced march, this migration. “You were in cryogenic hibernation for twelve years.” It was the only night that stood out in her memories; it was the only one that was different.

“Twelve years,” she replied. “How many others?”

The computer stayed silent, content only to turn off the lights behind her as she passed.

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Bang Bang

He came in from the cold.

“It’ll grow on you,” they said.

Horse-shit.

The little fire sputtered in the grate, blue-grey smoke coiling. He spat at it, and went to the sink, washed his hands – the water ran brown beneath his fingertips, and the walls seemed to close in on him, fake stone walls, fake wooden floor, fake fire. He turned up the thermostat.

They did the whole place to look rustic – which was another thing that pissed him off. Why hide the technology beneath this facade of another planet’s past? It’ll grow on you.

He looked out the window – a thin screen painted onto the wall of the hab – staring at the rambling pumpkin vines and the spears of maize that thrust into the dirt of this rock, a stake, claiming it for humanity. The replicator hummed, and dinged – false nostalgia for an age he had never lived in. The machine could create food from its surrounds, and it could do it in silence. It should do it in silence.

He glowered at it.

It didn’t make him feel any better.

The wind, he knew, howled outside, but you couldn’t hear it through the layers of glass and heavy plastic and gold that sprouted on the walls of his hab.

There was a knock on the door, but he ignored it.

He was down to the last bottle. Amber-gold, precious beyond anything else. He’d already been reprimanded for trying to disable his replicator’s copy-protection. He didn’t even care what brand of whiskey it made, so long as it made whiskey. It didn’t.

There it was again, that knock on the door – so sorry to be impolite, the knock said, I don’t mean to interrupt. The colony’s psych-bot knew all the door codes. It’d get inside eventually.

He found his hammer, and set to waiting.

 

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Swashmarks – Fifth in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Future Contest!

A Mermaid – by John William Waterhouse

Ah, that’s where I went wrong –

I linked to the main page of the Flash Future magazine, rather than directly to my science fiction short story, Swashmarks

You can read it, right HERE!

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Strange News From Another Star

The waves break on the black-stone beach.

The pebbles rattle as the water pulls back, gargling.

The dead sun overhead is slowly stripping the atmosphere away from this rock; it’s been forty-six days. There is nothing new to report.

#

Day forty-nine, by the Terran calendar. The concepts of ‘day’ and ‘night’ have no meaning, beneath the technicolour consumption going on upstairs. Day and night have no meaning, shadows are stretched, muted, changed – there is more than one shade of black. Black has no meaning, anymore, as subtle purples and blues and reds seem to erupt from the pebbles on the shoreline like flowers. Is this something I should report? It feels more like an isolation experiment than an exploration – maybe it’s both.

#

Where is Terra? Maybe I should ask the computer. The purple-blue-black-red-green sky is holding back the stars – in its death-throes the star has captured this planet, it’s now tidally locked, one side ever facing the monster in the sky that is peeling away the atmosphere in vast swathes. I sped over the dark side coming in to land, a featureless mass that suddenly gave way a twisted sun-line. New flowers open up daily on the beach; I’ve moved the rover away from the shore. They shine like gemstones, in the multi-coloured rain, but disappear when I stretch out my hand. The computer cannot tell me how long we have before the atmosphere is gone. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.

#

Further from the landing site now. The pebbles are gone, replaced by a fine, grey sand that clogs the rover’s ventilation system and lays a soft silt on my instruments. Vacuum-sealed my arse. The flowers don’t seem to grow here in the highlands. I’ve lost track of the days that have passed, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to contribute to the conversation. The baleful, dying eye of this system is finally starting to sink beneath the horizon. I can still see no stars. When sleep overcomes me, the rover drifts to a stop; when I wake, it begins again. Or I hope it does. There is no ‘day’, no ‘night’. I sleep when I must, that is my night. When I awaken the sun sits lower on the horizon. Are we moving in the night? There is no night.

#

We have been moving at night. When I woke we were still moving. The computer won’t tell me why. It just hums, idiotically. I want to turn back. The sun has sunk even further, barely poking above the edge of the world. Fuck, what day is it? How long have I been here? The dust is everywhere. The computer would know how long it has been since we landed. It was never supposed to keep moving at night. I want to turn back, back to the sun.

#

It’s so dark here, so cold. The stars shine like solid points in the sky, like stones. Sometimes the dust whips by, thrown up into the sky by the wind, by the rover’s tires. Strange shapes form in the clouds. I want to see the sun. I’ve taken to leaving the lights blazing, even though there is nothing to see but dust. The lights burn only to illuminate the depth of the darkness. I want to turn back to the sun. The internal lights only illuminate the dust that’s settled inside the cabin. The computer won’t let me get out, no matter how much I beg. I don’t care what day it is. There is only night, now. Turn back, turn back. Let me out.

#

I can feel it growing inside of me. Fuck, did I say that aloud?

#

It’s still, here, at the outer edge of the blackness. So quiet, now. The sun has begun to peer over the horizon, blessed, beautiful.  I shoved a screwdriver into the computer – can you still hear me, you bastard? Are you still recording everything I say? I hope so, you fucker. I can feel it growing inside me. I am not ashamed, anymore, not a pinch of guilt. I can feel it  growing, I can feel its tendrils plucking their way through my veins and arteries, gently fingering my nervous system, ossifying and crystallizing my bones. I am waiting, little one.

#

A bloom pokes through my eye – it hurt, at first. It doesn’t now. The sun is here, and the beach. There is less water, or whatever it is. It looks like water. The sun is here – brilliant, purple-blue-black. I am a seed, or a meadow, and I am waiting for the flowers to grow.


Written for this week’s TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge: the Random Song Title Challenge. The song I got was Blur’s Strange News from Another Star. I also managed to squeeze in some of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: pinch of guilt and multi-coloured rain. Let me know what you think! 

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World’s End

There are so many ways

to destroy a world.

But in the end

his native violence took hold,

and he tore it apart,

to the screams

of millions.

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Book Review: Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

“Don’t let anyone tell you that Apartheid has nothing to do with South Africa now. Those roots run deep and tangled and we’ll be tripping over them for many generations to come.”

 

Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes, is a brilliantly written dystopian science fiction novel, set a mere fifteen minutes into the future, as the saying goes.

Split between four entwining narratives, Moxyland follows the lives of four South Africans: Kendra, an art-school dropout and ‘sponsor baby’ who’s been injected with nanobots and branded, as part of a viral marketing scheme by a gen-mod company; Lerato, a tech-company worker infected with AIDS at birth, who is looking for a way out of her mid-level corporate job; Tendeka, a revolutionary, fighting against the corporate-elite and the police in a bid to reveal the true toxicity of the world; and Toby, a narcissistic blogger who streams his life in his ‘Diary of a Cunt’. Their worlds’ collide, again and again, throughout the novel, as the dystopian world they live in, a world where the South African Police Corps administer electric shocks through the populace’s SIM cards and issue 24-hour disconnects from the internet, and thus almost everything in Moxyland, from buses and the underground to apartment buildings and hospitals. Alongside their genetically modified Aitos (police dogs), the police are a less-than benevolent presence, and menace the people.

It is brilliant, and terrifyingly predictive, summoning a future where terrorism, fear and a false sense of security have forced the people to accept these impositions into their daily lives. The spirit of the Great Firewall of China, of the draconian police measures inflicted on citizens in the Western world, and peoples’ fears of genetic modification and of the terrifying disconnect are combined and born into the world in Moxyland, and stand as a warning as to where our world is heading.

A great read.

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Patience

Nuclear Winter Recon. CC photo by Paul Hocksenar

 

Countless days, endless nights.

The slow click of the Geiger counter.

Awkward, stretching silences.

The flicker of electric lights, the hum of the generators.

The stink of diesel, of unwashed bodies.

We opened the door onto snow – snow, in Brisbane! – and had to fight the urge to run out, into those wide-open spaces. Who knew what waited for us, out there in the snow. The little ones had never seen the sky. They sat, terrified, huddled inside the fallout shelter.

Their fear was infectious.

The second day: Hoarfrost lay in the doorway, the Geiger’s voice shrill, chirruping. Deformed trees cast stunted shadows, skeletal fingers reaching out to snatch away our shelter, our security. The corpses of cars and collapsed houses, long ago picked clean by drifting looters.

We had heard their cries for help as they bang bang banged against the heavy steel doors.

We raised our voices, to drown out theirs.

To drown out the past, and sing in our future.

 


 

 

 

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the eye, the ear and the arm

Oh, yeah. My copy of Nancy Farmer’s The Eye, the Ear and the Arm has just arrived.

I loved this book as a kid, a near-future science fiction novel, set in Africa.

A General’s children are abducted, and the police can do nothing to find the perpetrators.

So a special team of private detectives is called in – the aforementioned Eye, Ear and Arm – mutants who use their special talents to find and rescue the children.

Dystopian, pulpy-noir.

Very, very excited.

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Nasty, Brutish and Short

Vacation Fail – Russell Marks

And so the criminal disappears after the inventor.

Whipping backwards through time, into the deep, jungled past of the Earth.

There is freedom to be found, of a sort. Freedom to be captured, seized, taken. The device whirred, like the sound of a hundred frenzied violins, like the droning of a monastic order, like the squabbling of infants. He opened his eyes, into the brilliance of unfiltered sunshine, into a dawn that chased away the shadows.

She must be here, somewhere. She must be nearby.

It comes upon him in thunder bolts, the dirt shaking beneath his feet, the trees leaning drunkenly aside.

It comes upon him in a storm of tearing claws and snapping jaws.

She was worried, about interfering with the past. She was worried, by the butterfly effect and other serious things with pretty names. It didn’t take long to abandon her worries – she needed fire, and shelter, and food. She needed the silence of the echoing jungle, she needed this virgin world.

The past needed feeding.

The flames spread – she had left the fire unattended while attending to something else; a third thing attended to her.

It was still hungry, as the smell of ozone cleared and he staggered into the clearing, appearing from nothingness.

It was over in an instant.

 


 

 

&

 

 

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SciFriday #7

 

Babel 08. UGV 01 – Duster132

SciFriday! ~100 words.

Science Fiction (or Horror, or Fantasy!)

Hop to it! 

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Revenge

Revenge – Kakotomirai

An alien! The first, ever! It appeared, early one morning, or the night before, floating serene, above the city. Its tail disappeared up, into the clouds that swam around it, swanlike, drifting in the breeze, buffeting against the vast bulk of the creature. It just hung there, opalescent, non-responsive.

Not even the missiles could awaken it – that was dangerous, but it never pays to argue with military men. Puckered, blue rosebuds flowered on its hide, illuminated by orange-red blooms of flame, and black pillars of smoke rising into the sky. The beast just floated, suspended in mid-air, impossible.

The excitement wore off – which seemed unimaginable, at first, as people stopped in the streets and craned their necks skyward, as they flooded the city from around the world, desperate to see, to stare, to imagine. They left, eventually.

The colossus just hung in the sky, not moving.

Life went on – what else could we do?

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SciFriday #6

The Rabid Unicorn – Minna Sundberg

It’s Friday.

And you know what that means. 

It’s SciFriday! ~100 words.

This one doesn’t have to be sci-fi, but I’d love to see if you can manage it!

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Robert Heinlein, Giving Away Story Ideas

The bloke sells dreams, in pills. Euphoria, along with your fantasy, is guaranteed. The pills are not toxic, nor are they harmful the way narcotics are, but they are habit-forming as the euphoria dreams are much better than reality. Can the Pure Foods & Drugs people act?

This guy sells soap and cosmetics, door to door like the Fuller Brush man. She tries their beauty soap; she becomes beautiful. So she tries their vanishing cream…

A little cat ghost, padding patiently around in limbo, trying to find that familiar, friendly lap…

 

Robert Heinlein, of Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land fame, giving away a huge number of story ideas in a letter to Theodore Sturgeon, who wrote the science fiction masterpiece, More than Human.

Via Letters of Note.

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Contraband

Cyberpunk RPG – Dmitry Sorokin

The ‘droids stalked between market stalls, heedless of the soft-falling rain. We stayed indoors.

There will always be someone who disobeys the directives. It’s hard not to, in some ways – they write the laws in ways that seem to encourage different readings, in ways that encourage the search for loopholes. The profit involved is astronomical. Literally.

The trade in human meat to the outer system was easy to stop, at least on the surface. Take out a couple of middlemen, one or two of the big players, raid the alien settlements around Jupiter. They hated us, hated the concentration camps and the ghosts of the living, the holographic guardsmen and the ‘droids enforcing our rules. The cartels recovered from their loss of business, began shipping other products. Everyone loves contraband.

The trade in alien meat was less easy to control. There are a thousand spaceports on Terra, and a splashdown can happen anywhere wet.

And they taste so damn delicious.

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Book Review: AMONG OTHERS, Jo Walton

“This isn’t a nice story, and this isn’t an easy story. But it is a story about fairies, so feel free to think of it as a fairy story. It’s not like you’d believe it anyway.” 

Oh. My. Grosh.

This is a brilliant little bit of fiction – I loved this book. The voice, the plot, the faeries. Absolutely fantastic, and very high on my list of books-to-recommend-to-everyone.

As the novel opens we see Mori and her twin sister performing magic, and the magic in this book is very cleverly thought out, and even more cleverly applied. The trick to the magic is, in essence, that you can never tell whether it has been done. Did you use magic to change the bus schedule, as well as all the lives of all those people who catch that bus, or did it arrive two minutes early organically? Was that factory going to close down anyway, or did throwing a flower into a pond make it close?

Mori and her sister have to perform magic, after the fairies ask them to. They must perform magic, to stop their mother from taking over the world, from ever having ruled the world. Mori is crippled in the attempt, and her sister is killed, her mother goes insane (or was she always insane?) and Mori is forced to leave Wales, and to go to boarding school at her long-absent father’s insistence. She is forced to live, among others.

Sprinkled through with arguments and praise for famous science fiction and fantasy authors (Mori is a huge fan), I loved absolutely everything about this book. It’s Harry Potter, backwards.

“I did not buy a book called Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson, which has the temerity to compare itself, on the front cover, to ‘Tolkien at his best.’ The back cover attributes the quote to the Washington Post, a newspaper whose quotations will always damn a book for me from now on. How dare they? And how dare the publishers? It isn’t a comparison anyone could make, except to say ‘Compared to Tolkien at his best, this is dross.’ I mean you could say that even about really brilliant books like A Wizard of Earthsea. I expect Lord Foul’s Bane (horrible title, sounds like a Conan book) is more like Tolkien at his worst, which would be the beginning of The Simarillion.

The thing about Tolkien, about The Lord of the Rings, is that it’s perfect.” 

Five stars.

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5 Dystopian Science Fiction Films to Make You Worry About the Future

Checkpoint – Adam Kuczek

Aaah, dystopian science fiction. One of my favourite subgenres – if it’s done properly. Novels and films set in dystopian futures stand as warnings, as extrapolations of modern trends and projected far into the future. It’s social commentary as setting. George Orwell’s 1984 was (and still is) an attack on fascism and a predictor of the surveillance state, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a brutal take-down of the pleasure society and the class system. Fahrenheit 451, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The GiverThe Handmaid’s Tale – all on my bookshelf, by the way. I’m a big fan of this genre. The fact that these novels stay with us shows how much there is to fear, and the box office takings of modern films like Elysium and District 9 show how easily one man’s utopia is another’s dystopia. Now, onto my completely subjective list of dystopian films that I quite like, in no particular order:

1) Demolition Man (1993) 

Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone are in this film. Need I say more about why it made the list? It’s an early 90’s movie, which means it carries a lot of the hallmarks of 80’s action films. This is a good thing.

In Demolition Man, Pizza Hut has won the Fast Food Wars, crime has been all-but eliminated and Sandra Bullock plays a character named Lenina Huxley, which is a direct reference to Brave New World.

Awesome.

Smoking is not good for you. Anything not good for you is bad. Hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat… bad language, chocolate, uneducational toys and spicy food. Abortion is illegal, but so is pregnancy if you don’t have a license.

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Grey Clouds

Post Apocalyptic City – Peter Siegl

Giant nautilus shells, trailing grey clouds and death in their wake. First contact.

These tentacled hunters, a flotilla adrift on some unfelt current, feeding.

We hid, like rats in the walls, like the terrified mammals we were, engaged in silent, gestured conversations.

Are they still there? He glanced up, nodded.

We’re running out of food. We’re running out of water. She mimed understanding, shrugged, as if to ask what he had expected. They drifted nearer.

I can’t make the baby stop crying.

I can. He smashed its head against the rubble.

She screamed, her voice echoing through the ruins.

He ran.

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